Early Saturday morning (Sept. 3), news broke that Jerry Heller, manager of the 1980s rap collective N.W.A, died at the age of 75. Billboard reports that Heller’s cousin, Gary Ballen, confirmed the music industry veteran’s passing, but the cause of his death is still unknown.
Heller’s likeness recently made an appearance in the 2015 blockbuster N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton. His controversial dealings of the group’s monetary endeavors sparked a rift within the storied rap collective, and eventually led to their parting. He also assisted in making Ruthless Records a household name within the industry, which saw the release of platinum-selling albums Eazy-Duz-It, 100 Miles and Runnin’, and the critically-acclaimed Straight Outta Compton.
Once the movie made its rounds, Heller sued Dr. Dre, Eazy-E’s estate, Ice Cube and others involved in the making of the film for defamation of character, and sued for $110 million in damages, Rolling Stone reports.
Ahead of the movie’s release, Heller spoke about Eazy-E’s importance to not only the group, but rap music in general, and was aware that his image wouldn’t be portrayed in a positive light given the “animosity” between him and the film’s producers.